It’s not just cricket

The people who rail against the popularity of the Twenty/20 and even the 50-over game are deluding themselves; they seem blind to the popularity of those more exciting versions of the game.  It’s okay to rail against the poor attitudes of some players caused by the big money of the shorter games, but please note: the IPL promoters, and others of that ilk, can afford to pay those salaries only because the fans are coming in droves to their events. And as much as TV commentators solemnly proclaim that players should put their heads down and play “real cricket” – by which they mean of course Test cricket – they don’t seem to notice that the uproar and excitement among today’s fans is when the boundaries come.

And by the way, even the commentators themselves, many of them purists at heart, can get caught up in the frenzy and will often label a six “a fantastic shot” even though it has been achieved by a vicious swipe completely across the line.

What it comes down to is that in the world of cricket, as we live it now, the majority of the fans will turn their backs on the defensive shot and embrace the voop because the latter is an expression of modern life. That may be putting it in a nutshell, but it’s reality.

Of course, we hear the purists’ admonition against the hook, the square cut lunge at the wide ball (Sarwan’s nemesis), the reverse sweep, and the slap at the bouncer, but most of the cricket crowds now are jumping in the stands over the scoop shot that sails over the keeper’s head, or Symons powering that high arcing six over long on, or Gayle’s one-handed slap over slips that goes over the ropes – immediate and frequent excitement.

That’s what gets the dancing girls on their feet and the fans waving in jubilation; on the very next delivery, the forward defensive block with the batsman’s head down, and the wrist turning over, as the TV replay shows us, draws only a yawn in the stands.

And it’s not just a cricket oddity.  It’s like that in music. No more long intros, and songs that take a while to develop; up-tempo rhythms, instant jump-and-wave, and repetitious hook phrases are the ingredients in today’s popular music.  No more double entendre calypsos like Honeymooning Couple where the punch line comes at the end of the song, nearly 3 minutes after it started – that’s simply too long to wait in modern life; today’s crowds want Who Let the Dogs Out.

Same thing in food – instant menu.  Don’t keep me waiting. Sit in your car, take it through the window, and drive off. We may not care for the taste of fast food, or the excess calories, but check the restaurants where the line is the longest and that will tell you in a glance what the public is after.

The reality is that we have all become accustomed to the faster pace, and most of us actually prefer it most of the time – it’s only when some particular aspect that we love is altered that we take offence.

Think back to the time when we would sit in a restaurant and chat, or sip a sweet drink, waiting for the food to arrive; today, if our order isn’t there in 10 minutes we start to fidget and the comments about slow service crop up.

Think back to the time when you were required to book an overseas call in advance and even then sometimes it could take days. Today, if we can’t dial London instantly, we’re calling GT&T and complaining. Remember when a letter between Georgetown and the Pomeroon, and a reply, would take almost two weeks? Today, you can email somebody in Australia repeatedly in a matter of hours.

We have become so accustomed to the speed of it all that we are not going back. We have gone from the ponderous typewriter to the technology that allows us to cut-and-paste in a document and then instantly send it around the world. The selling point of technology today is for ever faster, ever smaller, ever more versatile. Our pace has been so revved up that the complaints about the computer being “so slow” are flying when in fact only 10 seconds have passed.

It may be distressing to some of us, and I have some sympathy for that view, but it’s all connected to the radical change in the way we live our lives now. To use the modern phrase, it’s a sea change, and fighting against that tide, while you can certainly take that course, is not going to turn the clock back.

Test cricket comes from a time of copious spare time; a time without television and without earphone music, when people would sit for hours and listen to long-playing records taking up an hour; a time when people would spend four hours over a meal; a time when the passport you get today in 15 minutes would take two days.

It’s a world now of copious diversions all coming at us at break-neck speed, and with the even faster one being engineered as I write this.

To put it in perspective: we have gone from lady boats to jets; from typewriter to computer; from surface mail to the electronic message; from erratic communication to constant dial tone on the cellular phone; from bank drafts that take four weeks being cleared to the online wire transfer that takes an hour; from five days of painstaking Test cricket to the short-game frenzy that’s over in 4 hours – and no draws.

The harsh truth is that Twenty/20 cricket is not an oddity and a ground-breaking invention. It’s exactly like all the other innovations surrounding us – an inevitable consequence of modern life.  We can dislike them all we want, and complain about them all we want; those developments are not going to fade away. That may not be good news for many of us, but in 2010 so it go.

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